Sinclair Lewis was the first American ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He wrote realistic fiction with an emphasis on exposing the pettiness and lack of culture found in everyday life. His most famous novels include Main Street, Babbit and Dodsworth.
Sinclair Lewis was born in Minnesota in 1885. Many of the residents of the area were of Scandinavian descent and when Lewis started writing, many of his characters were as well. Lewis went to Yale University in 1903. While there, he contributed to the Yale Literary Magazine, mostly fantasy tales that were far removed from the books that would later make him famous.
In 1908 he graduated and moved to Iowa and then San Francisco to work as a newspaper reporter. He then served as junior editor of a magazine published out of Washington D.C. for teachers of the deaf. By 1910 he was working at a publishing house in New York.
He published his first novel Hike and the Aeroplane under the pen name Tom Graham. The first novel published under his own name was Our Mr. Wren, in 1914, the same year that he married Grace Hegger. Our Mr. Wren, and the four novels published after it, garnered little attention.
In 1920, Lewis published Main Street. Lewis's realistic and revealing view of small town America caught the attention of many. Main Street was followed by Babbit in 1922 and Arrowsmith in 1925. The Pulitzer Prize committee attempted to award Lewis the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith, but he refused the honor.
Though he wrote several books after Dodsworth in 1929, it has often been called the last of his great works. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930, the same year that his son was born.
Sinclair Lewis died of heart disease in 1951. Though he died in Rome, he is buried in his home state of Minnesota. Two of his books were published after his death: The World is So Wide and Letters of Sinclair Lewis: 1919-1930.